BWW Interview: Once Before I Go - New York-Bound David Harris Talks Solo Show TIME IS A TRAVELLER
At the end of the day, David Harris is a boy from Oz. He's a good-looking, easy-going, hard-working country boy. Who just happens to possess a voice that can stop your heart a little. It's a voice that has, over the course of two decades, taken him on a journey from Lycra-wearing, high-school outsider, to charismatic leading man of the Australian musical theatre stage.
And now New York is calling. She's called before, of course. For a performer like Harris, the lights of Broadway were always in sight. But Harris has that Aussie sensibility; he knew his gut would tell him when it was right to go. He knew an opportunity would present itself - "when it's meant to happen." Other things happened first. Big things. Like lead roles in the hit musicals WICKED, and LEGALLY BLONDE. And international concert tours, sharing the stage (and sometimes stealing the show) with musical theatre legends Lea Salonga, and Michael Ball.
And now. The timing, it feels right. He has a solid body of work behind him, and a stellar reputation, to set him down on his feet over there. So he's leaving for New York, mid-year. But before he goes, Harris is taking a look back at where he's been. TIME IS A TRAVELLER is his 90-minute cabaret reflection; so often cast as the romantic lead in big scale musicals, Harris wants to tell his own stories here, to let his audience come a little closer.
A show he has performed in various forms across the past few years, Harris calls TIME IS A TRAVELLER a kind of "brain map", touching on all of the opportunities he's had, and the people he's met through out his career. But it's more than just a catalogue of his achievements thus far.
"I want to be David Harris on stage. At 38 years of age, there are a few stories to tell. It's about letting people in on things they would never know about you. All those intimate stories that, when you are doing those big musicals, you don't show. There are a lot of elements in this show that spin the camera around, where I tell what I was thinking during these moments, and what was happening in my life."
After performing in 8-shows-a-week musicals, and large concert halls around the world, Harris says the 100-seat Hayes Theatre requires him to draw on a whole different set of skills.
"The audience is half a metre away from you; you can hear everything that happens in the theatre. It's so intimate. It's like someone sitting in your lounge-room. It pushes your boundaries, when you're not playing a character. It's free, and easy, because you're just being yourself, but at the same time, it's really vulnerable and scary, being yourself. I love that kind of catch-22."
If TIME IS A TRAVELLER is telling the audience something about David Harris' journey to this point, there is another poignant line to note in 'Tenterfield Saddler', the Peter Allen song from which Harris took his title. Time is also a tale teller. As he closes this chapter of his career in Australia, and prepares for the New York move, what does he hope for the next part of the story?
Harris says it's a story he can't write yet.
"And that's the appeal of it. I'm open to being open. Ultimately, of course, [the goal] is to be on Broadway, that's why I'm going there. But as to how that unfolds, I have no idea. And I'm excited by not knowing."
Harris is also well aware that achieving your dream has its own kind of consequence. He remembers waking up after the opening night of MISS SAIGON in Melbourne, thinking of how he used to usher for the original Australian production, how he'd set his sights on the role of Chris back then, and now the role was his.
"It's a scary thing, when all you've been striving for is one thing. And then you get it. I went - 'Well, I've ticked it off. What's my next box? What do I want to put out there? What now?' There have been a number of those situations for me." Continued next page.
So for now, there will be no planning, or ticking of boxes. The point is in the going. And Harris is quick to add that he's not saying goodbye to Australia for good.
"I'll always want to come back here and work, there's no doubt about that. My family is here, I love Australia. This is home. For me, it's opening up another paddock I can graze on, [and still] keep this paddock here."
Family is clearly important to Harris. Growing up in the Hunter Valley, it wasn't so easy finding his place, and his people. He credits a strong family network for getting him through his school days, where he was made fun of for his interest in musical theatre.
"At 15, I was doing my first school musical, and I was ridiculed, because no one did musicals up there. I was playing Superman, in a Lycra outfit, and I was picked on so much.
I didn't know many people who had the same interests as me. I just didn't fit well. It's harrowing when you're a kid, and you don't seem to fit the mould. Lucky I had a really loving home to go back to, because outside of home, it wasn't a joyful place sometimes."
Harris says he would tell that 15-year-old kid in his Superman outfit that it gets so much better.
"I would tell myself - 'these are not your best days, trust me. This is one blip in a whole big life you've got. It's just a blip in time, compared to what's ahead."
TIME IS A TRAVELLER speaks to just what was out there waiting for that kid. It was when he took his first job, workshopping THE BOY FROM OZ, that Harris finally found his place, and his people, too. It was the beginning of a career that he says would have been unfathomable to his 15-year-old self.
"To be around all those people [who] were so creative, and it was okay to be whoever you wanted to be, that was like ... ah! This is where it is, you know?"
"Musical theatre folk are like no other," he adds. "They are this giving, loving group of uplifting people. It's a wonderful network to be part of."
Time has been kind to this traveller, this tale teller. There has been a whole big life since those early days, and one suspects that for Harris, the best is yet to come.
As to why he's making the move to New York now, after nearly two decades performing in Australia, Harris gives a characteristically philosophic answer.
"It's turned out to be the right time for me. I know it is. Everything feels right. Things are aligning."
Timing is everything, in the end.
And if we're talking stars, David Harris is one of our brightest. So, New York - you can add him to your constellation. For now. You can borrow this boy from Oz. But only for a time. We'll want him back, okay?
When you have given him new and wonderful stories to tell.
Working Management in association with Hayes Theatre Co presents
DAVID HARRIS in
TIME IS A TRAVELLER
Hayes Theatre Co, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point
Sunday 27th April, Friday 2nd May & Sunday 4th May at 7.30pm
EXTRA SHOW ADDED! Saturday 3rd May at 7.30pm
For tickets and more information, click here.
Middle image credit: Qiqi/Enda Markey Presents